Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!" Any construction manager, tradesman, or general contractor who operates in the construction industry should take these words to heart. Plans are the lifeblood of any construction project as they outline technical specifications, identify permits needed, and provide overall direction.
Plans allow everyone to know what needs to be accomplished.
All construction workers need to be updated on a project's schedule as it progresses. Also, they must be able to recognize essential building information such as codes and building dimensions. Both scenarios are addressed within the construction plan.
And having a plan is not only beneficial for those on the front line. Anyone involved in financial decision-making, such as ordering the supplies necessary for all phases of construction, needs to understand the overall vision of a project and be able to anticipate future needs and costs. A comprehensive construction plan provides detailed timelines, ensuring that supplies and labor can be ordered before critical stages occur.
This article will outline the core components of a construction plan, from what it is to online resources that will show you how to read one.
What Is a Construction Plan?
By definition, the construction plan represents a project site and all the necessary events linked to a particular construction project. Once completed, the plan becomes the guiding force for all those involved in a construction project to understand what is occurring and how it will unfold.
This detailed plan is presented in both written and visual formats to help those involved know what work needs to be carried out and in what order things need to be done. A construction plan will usually include the following elements:
- A thorough construction schedule and timeline;
- A framework indicating how specific parts of the project interconnect and how they are to be approached;
- Drawings and illustrations show the different construction phases
- Photographs and images highlight the planned site.
Once the plan is complete, it isn't set in stone. Like all things in life, construction projects are constantly changing, and the plan should continue to be updated as a project takes shape.
Why Are Blueprints Important?
Blueprints are an essential component of the plan as they provide a 2-D drawing of how an architect has envisioned a building to look. It is the visual element that communicates all the technical details, including building dimensions, materials used, the layout of specific rooms, and topographical information.
Architectural blueprints are also integral to developing the construction plan as they determine construction scheduling and the application timeline for permits.
How to Read Construction Plans
Although reading and interpreting construction plans can be overwhelming—they can be quite long—the truth is that they're pretty simple to read once you understand how.
Locating the plan's index is a critical piece to understanding the project you're viewing. It is where you'll find a description of all the pages included in the plan. Depending on the trade performing a specific job, all contractors and construction workers will want to review the plan's areas that apply specifically to them and get a sense of the project's overall scope.
You'll also want to keep an eye out for the title block, which tells you who created the plan and the scale of the drawing shown. Although it seems like it should go without saying, it's essential to make sure you view the document correctly, which means you need to identify which direction is facing north and align yourself accordingly as you consider the plan. Once you have positioned the document correctly and determined the drawing's scale, you must find and identify the legend, as symbols are a vital component of every plan. We cover more about their use in our next section.
One last thing before moving on is to review any critical general notes included in the plan. These will help you understand the drawings and provide insight into the necessary information you need to see the project completed.
Elements of the Plan
Whether outlining a deck, new home, porch or shed, some elements remain consistent across every project, no matter the plan. These commonalities make reading blueprints easier and quicker for all those who must interpret them.
A standard construction plan will contain detailed schedules, building elevation heights, and plenty of drawings. Below are some of the many aspects found in almost all construction plans:
- Abbreviations and Symbols - Since there is a lot of information packed into each page of a plan, abbreviations and symbols help save valuable space. Examples of standard abbreviations include CL for closet, Ltg. for lighting, and Wtr. Htr. for water heater. Be sure to review some of the standard abbreviations used so you have a general understanding of them. While many symbols and abbreviations are commonly used, you may encounter some unique to a specific designer or architect.
- Electrical Plan -The electrical plan portion reveals precisely where lighting fixtures, switches, and outlets will be located in a construction plan.
- Exterior Elevation -The elevation section of a plan contains the vertical height dimensions of a structure, typically for each side of the house or building. It includes the grade lines, roof height, and window heights.
- Floor Plans - A floor plan is a horizontal drawing that shows the building's layout from the perspective of looking down from above, a birds-eye view. It provides a clear idea of where walls, doors, and windows are located.
- Foundation Map - This layer indicates the layout of the building's foundation. It will show if the foundation is to include a slab, crawl space, or basement.
- General Notes - These are notes from the architect that apply to all trades involved in the project. These notes tend to be universal and applicable to all disciplines.
- Scale -Building plans are commonly drawn to scale, which allows for a large building to appear on paper. Standard scales for projects include1:100, 1:200, and 1:500. A structure shown on a scale of 1:200 represents a building that will be 200 times larger.
- Site Plan - This part of the plan outlines the project's geographical landscape, such as its footprint, property lines, and sewer lines.
- Section Drawing - Whereas the floor plan gives a birds-eye view of the project, the section drawing shows a vertical depiction of the building as though it has been cut in half and then viewed. This orientation helps individuals envision what they will see within the structure.
A construction project is like a gigantic puzzle, and plans help workers put the pieces together. It may help to review examples of construction plans created by other companies. Here are a couple of completed examples:
Construction Safety Plan
While a solid construction plan is essential, a construction safety plan is just as important. Like the comprehensive plan guides all workers in understanding different aspects of the project, the safety plan is geared towards keeping everyone safe by outlining proper responses in various situations.
Focal points found in a safety plan include:
- Chain of command – identifies safety professional on-site and determines steps for escalation.
- Medical aid – this information helps workers know how to quickly contact local services, such as fire departments, if medical aid or assistance is needed.
- Inspection– reviewing daily checklists is imperative, as worksites are constantly changing, and workers need to be up-to-date on where the project stands.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)– this part of the plan should address specific applications and hazards encountered by workers and outline the necessary PPE to keep all workers safe on the job site.
- Accident reporting procedures– this vital information outlines how to document any injury that occurs.
Safety plans must be developed on the front end before any personnel begins work. If they are not set in advance, improper workplace activities and bad habits can quickly creep up once the project is underway. It is important to include multiple stakeholders in initial safety conversations, ensuring buy-in from all those at the job site.
You may also want to read up on some other articles we've written for those interested in construction safety. Here are some helpful articles to consider viewing:
What are the first steps in planning a construction project?
- The first step to any construction project is creating a file that lists all the people, assets, and budgets involved to complete the project. From there, you can move on to drafting the initial plan.
How to draw construction plans?
- Creating construction plans is not something anyone can easily or quickly do. It requires lots of preparation, supplies, and a thorough understanding of construction terminology. If you are tasked with preparing a construction plan but don't have a lot of experience doing so, you may want to consider utilizing some modern software to create the plan. These software programs contain many of the symbols, abbreviations, and design themes used by professionals.
What does a complete set of residential construction plans include?
- We've identified the core elements of a construction plan above. You should always expect a foundation plan, floor plan, and general notes to help everyone focus on a project's most critical facets. And, as we mentioned above, safety plans should always be addressed, too.
Protecting Construction Planners and Workers
Plans are helpful in many aspects of life, from calculating one's next career move to the vacation being planned over the summer. So, it only makes sense that a complex construction project would require a thorough, comprehensive plan and blueprints to show what and where things are needed. One element of the safety plan portion of a construction plan is PPE, where MCR Safety enters construction plans worldwide.
When it comes to helping managers prepare for the safety hazards faced on a construction project, MCR Safety is the expert in providing the appropriate PPE for construction applications. If you're a construction professional, we hope you will check out our dedicated Construction industry page, covering hazards and recommended PPE across ten individual construction pages.
MCR Safety Construction Industry Resource Page
When it comes to preventing injuries on the worksite, MCR Safety is the expert in providing the appropriate PPE to keep you safe. If you're a construction professional, we encourage you to check out our dedicated Construction industry page, covering hazards and recommended PPE across ten individual construction subsector pages.
REQUEST A QUOTE
We welcome any comments, feedback, or suggestions for how we can best protect people at work.
For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.